Category Archives: video games

cannibal capitalism and video game streaming

Cannibal capitalism is the mediated consumption of other people’s suffering. Usually someone gets paid for this. In the NFL players and owners get money while viewers watch men exchange ritualized interpersonal violence. Traditional televised sports are ripe with injury moments and the moral judgement that soothes and justifies the suffering.

Slightly less visible is the suffering that happens in order to bring us the entertainment. The New Yorker has a nice essay on video game streamers who broadcast their games to gigantic audiences of semi-interactive fans. Taylor Clark describes the harm that many streamers face from the occupation.

“At this summer’s PAX West–a yearly convention that inundates downtown Seattle with gaming fans–virtually every streamer I spoke with voiced concerns about the health risks of overwork. “My doctor told me I was going to die if I kept doing it like this,” a young broadcaster who goes by Bria Leigh said. ‘You spend ten hours a day in the chair. And you don’t even want to get up to use the bathroom, because you’re afraid you’ll lose viewers.'”(43) – Taylor Clark, “Revenue Streaming.” The New Yorker. November 20, 2017. P. 38-44

Clark’s article contains reference to a gamer who died during a 24-hour charity stream (Brian Vigneault) and a opens with the description of Roberto Garcia AKA Towelliee, a popular streamer.  Clark describes the impact on Garcia from his years of grinding out gaming for fans.

“Game streaming, Garcia discovered, required non-stop work.  The only way to attract viewers, and to prevent the ones you had from straying to other broadcaster, was to be online constantly, so he routinely streamed for eighteen hours a day.  “That’s what I had to do to grown the viewership,” he said.  His ankles swelled from sitting at this computer.  his weight grew to four hundred and twenty pounds.” (38) – Taylor Clark, “Revenue Streaming.” The New Yorker. November 20, 2017. P. 38-44

There is a lot to unpack in the representations of video gaming and new media.  My interest is to note that this new genre of entertainment has consequences for the producers.  Streamed live, viewers get to watch and comment on (consume) the streamers with a kind of interactivity that has seldom been seen before.  The invitation is there for viewers to chat directly with the producers and create community.

But the expectation is that the streamer is there for the viewer and in some ways is entitled to the viewing.  In this relationship where the streamer depends on the views to make a living there is a certain incentive to grind through moments of suffering in order to keep viewers.

This relationship is cannibal capitalism where viewers consume the suffering of someone else through the media.  It is visible through the twitch comments and the representations of streaming participants.  It is also in the bodily cost that is above-and-beyond other lines of employment.  (No doubt that people who cut down trees for a living have swelling feet and high blood pressure from their job, but few arborists have 10,000 people watching their successes and failures live).

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Filed under capitalism, communication, health, technology, video games, videogames, vulnerability

Gamergate, autoblocker, anti-trans violence and sea lions: Katherine Cross for the win

One of the most productive commentators about so-called gamergate is Katherine Cross.  Her recent post on Feministing is so on point that it deserves some archival / expansion work.

1.  There is an autoblocking program for twitter that removes most of the posts from gamergate trolls.  For anyone out there interested in civil space, this is a big improvement.  Cross describes it this way:

What offends GamerGaters about the autoblocker, aside from the fact that a woman found a technical solution to a social problem, is that it denies them the ability to impose themselves on targets. The idea that the women, people of colour, and queer folk who’ve comprised the majority of GG’s targets might be able to curate their online spaces and have certain discussions only with those of their choosing is repugnant to many GamerGaters. In the absence of genuine legal recourse, the worst thing you can do to a bully, harasser, or troll is ignore them after all.

via Revenge of the Sealion: GamerGate’s crusade against blocking.

2.   Underscoring much of the gamergate vitriol is a toxic anti-trans politics.  Much of the visibility of the violence seems to have a direction.  Again Katherine Cross gathers enough targeted tweets and message board quotes to rile me up.   For those who are trans-inclusive, trans-positive, or simply kind human beings, it is worth marking gamergate as a particularly anti-trans moment in time.

3.  Katherine Cross introduces me to the idea of “sealioning” — a refined bullying tactic.  Cross explains:

“Polite” GGers, defined as those who do not explicitly swear or use slurs, nevertheless harry the people they target because they do not take no for an answer and come in packs. The phenomenon of “sealioning”– barraging a target with politely worded but interrogating questions asked in bad faith– gained a name under GamerGate because of how common the tactic was.

via Revenge of the Sealion: GamerGate’s crusade against blocking.

Also provided is this nice comic!

Sealion-Comic

 

 

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Filed under Animals, communication, feminism, Gay, hacking, human rights, intersectionality, protest, representation, resistance, sexism, Surveillance, technology, video games

Anita Sarkeesian and accountability for online harassment

Anita Sarkeesian does really good critical analysis of video games.  For that work she has received death threats and brutal online harassment.  What do you do with this kind of vitriol?  Sarkeesian explains her approach in an IGN interview:

I have a few strategies for dealing with harassment. First having a good support network is important. Whenever possible I try to look through the worst of the comments and messages with friends who can offer moral support and witty observations. Second, I never respond to any of the hateful messages, emails or comments directly. Its just not worth it on a tactical level or frankly, on an emotional level. You really can’t have a well reasoned argument with folks spewing blatant sexism all over the place.

Instead, after long discussions and careful consideration, I decided to document the abuse I was receiving and strategically post portions of it online. I knew that by refusing to be silent, and making the abuse public, I ran the risk of further enraging my attackers and becoming even more of a target but ultimately I felt it was worth it to try and bring more attention to the epidemic of sexist harassment that women face everyday just for wanting to be full participants online.

via Full IGN interview with Anita Sarkeesian | Feminist Frequency.

Sarkeesian also notes some potentially fruitful tactics to think structurally about accountability.

When it comes to the question of accountability, we obviously need our service providers to take online harassment seriously with built in structures and functionalities that actively deter bad behaviour and actually encourage good behavior. We also need to be creating a larger cultural shift away from impunity and towards a measure of social accountability.  This is a long process of course but it starts with community members especially men publicly calling out harassment and challenging misogyny when they see it. It’s critically important to make it clear that abusive behavior will not be tolerated in our digital spaces.  These small personal actions might not immediately change the mind or world view of the person doing the harassing, but if enough people speak up it can definitely help to create an environment where perpetrators will feel less comfortable and less supported in their abusive behaviour. Harassers might think twice before making a sexist, racist or homophobic comment next time around because they can’t be sure that their fellow gamers will just ignore or go along with it.

via Full IGN interview with Anita Sarkeesian | Feminist Frequency.

I also like her response to the idea that she should “grow a thicker skin.”

AS: Honestly, this is kind of a difficult question to answer. The events in question have of course had a pretty substantial impact on my life both professionally and personally. I would be lying if I said that it isn’t sometimes a struggle to deal with this kind of persistent vitriol on a daily basis.  I think one possible response to this much vicious hostility would be to simply become jaded and cynical or to “grow a thicker skin” so to speak.  But I don’t think that the price of admission to the world of gaming should be to have to disconnect from your emotional capacity or distance yourself from your own humanity. I don’t think that’s a fair trade. Its simply not ok to ask people to jettison their ability to feel in order to deal with a constant barrage of threats, slurs and abuse. So instead I try to balance it all by focusing more on the tremendous outpouring of support for my project. That incredible encouragement has really inspired me and deepened my convictions about the work I do and I think is an indication that the industry, and gaming culture more broadly, is already in the process of changing for the better. Although, this metamorphoses may be slow and painful at times, there can be no doubt that change is happening and will result in a better more inclusive gaming culture for everyone.

via Full IGN interview with Anita Sarkeesian | Feminist Frequency.

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